You can screw around buying cheap converters and DACs until the cows come home, but you probably will not beat the CEC transport until you pay for a decent USB converter.
Even most expensive DACs have only mediocre USB interfaces IME. The quality of these vary all over the map.
Thank you for your reply. I noticed there a I2S output on Off-Ramp 5. That got me thinking. Why just get a I2S output card for a PC and then use a DAC with I2S input. I know a company that is developing a I2S PCI (PCIe) card. But I there do not seem to many DACS that have a I2S (HDMI) input option. The only one that I can think of is the W4S DAC-2. But I am not too sure about that DAC, not really a fan of DACS that up/oversample without the option of turning the up/over sampling of.
An outboard converter like the Stello is a huge improvement over built in units. I have the Stello and have used it with DACS from $500 to $3k ( metrum hex currently).
Although it might be worth trying the Metrum Octave usb input before investing further.
The Audiobyte Hydra-X (384 KHz PCM/5.6 Mhz DSD) is a state of the art converter, but pretty expensive
"Why not just get a I2S output card for a PC and then use a DAC with I2S input."
Because the jitter from ALL PCI cards is terrible. It's the master clock that you must optimize. This is analogous to the Cartridge in a vinyl system. This is the key part to get a good result.
Its not just that the Off-Ramp has I2S output. Its the low-jitter clocks. That is why it beats PCI cards.
If you are using PCs, I think Steve's OffRamp converters are the way to go.
If you are using Macs and want to use Audirvana Plus, I'd recommend a USB-SPDIF that supports Direct/Integer modes such as the Wavelength Wavelink HS.
Like Steve says, USB-SPDIF devices vary in implementations and sound quality.
If your software doesn't support Direct/Integer modes, Steve's OffRamp is a much better sounding solution (tho at a higher price).
That said, I read elsewhere that Steve's next OffRamp would include a Direct/Integer mode compatible interface as well.
Doggie, I'm using Mac and Pure Music. Is that Direct/Integer?
Pure Music supports Integer mode in Snow Leopard. Apple changed the core audio API in Lion and Mountain Lion which broke Integer mode for Pure Music (and Audirvana Plus). But Audirvana's creator found another way to enable Direct/Integer mode with Lion and Mountain Lion which IMHO sounds better.
Pure Music claims this method of accessing Integer mode is not recommended. I gather the direct I/O access on A+ may conflict with other OS I/O commands but on my dedicated for music Mac Mini, it has not been an issue. I also use it with an MBP Retina (which is not dedicated) but I make sure I don't run other apps when A+ is running and that has worked fine as well.
Damn, this is the first I've heard of this detail of compatibility. Makes me take a step back and wonder just how much more fidelity is lurking in my systems or if some of my choices are fundamentally correct.
Wow, like this thread. I am currently using a mac mini with pure music. Looking to upgrade my USB/SPDIF converter and DAC. Currently using a hi face with PS audio DL III. Was leaning towards audiophellio2, not sure about DAC. This compatibility has me rethinking.
Audiophileo supports Direct Mode with Audirvana and Lion/Mountain Lion.
If you are running Pure Music on Snow Leopard. No issue. Integer works on Audiophileo on that system too.
So, to be clear. I'm running Pure Music with a Mac Mini (10.7.5 Lion?) which has the changed core audio API?
Any suggestions with this system?
Comcast modem > ethernet cable > Mac Mini 10.7.5 Pure music (Samsung Blu-ray Disc) > MeiCord ethernet cable > Apple Time Machine wireless > Logitech Squeezebox Touch with Channel Island Linear P/S> Straight Wire Data-Link RCA cable > Metrum Acoustics Octave NOS DAC,
I was considering simply adding The Empirical SM reclocker between the Squeezebox and the DAC since my main media source is vinyl.
But now I'm not sure if an iPad controlled dedicated Mini > USB/SPDIF converter > BNC equipped DAC would be a substantial improvement as well as aid in future flexibility.
I preferred Audirvana Plus to Pure Music. See if you can pick up a second hand Audiophileo or Wavelink HS or OffRamp to experiment. The Audiophileo might be the cheapest of the bunch to try out.
I use a Musical Fidelity V-Link 192 into my Wyred4Sound DAC 1. It sounds wonderful. I read an earlier post that the Wyred dac upsamples everything. Not so! My Wyred dac displays the proper sampling rate. If it was recorded at 44.1, that is what displayed. If it was recorded at 48, 96, 176.6 or 192, that is what is displayed on both the V Link 192 and dac.
Regardless, the V Link 192 is an inexpensive way to go for a usb/spdif converter. The person I bought the V Link from (bought it used) replaced it with the Berkley USB/SPDIF converter and said the difference in sound quality is very minute and the Berkley sells for at least 4 times the price of the V link 192.